Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Turkey, Iran deploy ‘game-changing’ drones in north Iraq

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Turkey and Iran are more and more adopting “game-changing” drones as their weapon of selection in opposition to Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, prompting fears for the security of civilians and stoking geopolitical tensions.”Not a day goes by without us seeing a drone,” mentioned Mohammad Hassan, mayor of Qandil, the mountainous Iraqi stronghold of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).”They fly so low Qandil’s residents can see them with their naked eye,” Hassan informed AFP.The PKK has used Qandil for many years as a rear-base for its insurgency in opposition to the Turkish state.The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDK-I) has comparable rear-bases in different distant areas of Iraqi Kurdistan, from which it launches assaults throughout the border into Iran.Turkey and Iran take into account the Kurdish rebels as “terrorists” and routinely conduct cross-border floor assaults, air strikes and artillery bombardments in opposition to their Iraq bases.Starting in 2018, each international locations started utilizing unmanned aerial autos (UAVs) for surveillance and even focused assassinations in northern Iraq.Drone use has expanded dramatically since Turkey launched a brand new assault in June, analysts and residents of affected areas informed AFP.Activists mentioned dozens of border villages and adjoining farms have been deserted by their terrified residents.The drone strikes have additionally prevented hundreds of Yazidis from returning to their houses in Sinjar district, near the Syrian border, the place PKK parts now have a presence.”The Turkish bombing causes so much terror, so Yazidis are not coming home,” Sinjar mayor Mahma Khalil informed AFP.- ‘Mistrust, irritation’ – Despite public criticism, Turkey has continued its drone warfare — seemingly due to new strides in opposition to the PKK.For years, the PKK sheltered in Iraq’s mountains, the place manned warplanes and floor troops struggled to reach them.But drones have allowed Ankara to trace, establish and eradicate PKK targets inside minutes, Nicholas Heras of the Institute for the Study of War informed AFP.Story continues”Turkey’s use of military drones in northern Iraq has been a game-changer in its war against the PKK,” he mentioned.Ankara is now swapping costly fighter-bombers just like the US F-16 for drones just like the domestically-produced Bayraktar TB2, which has higher surveillance, can fly for 24 hours and is cheaper — so “expendable” if downed by the PKK, mentioned Turkish drone knowledgeable Sibel Duz.In an unique interview in Qandil, PKK spokesman Zagros Hiwa informed AFP Turkey had created a 15 kilometre (10 mile) buffer zone in northern Iraq with the assistance of its drones.”Our forces have downed seven drones this year,” he mentioned, declining to offer particulars of PKK losses.The PKK has had restricted success with improvised drones of its personal, industrial fashions fitted with explosives.A US supply aware of Turkey’s drones programme mentioned US particular operations forces in northern Iraq had been bristling on the new “frequency and intensity” of strikes.”The Turks are overflying US positions with armed assets, which is a no-no. There is general mistrust and irritation over all this,” the supply mentioned.- ‘Shooting gallery’ – Iran first started deploying plane fitted with cameras throughout its 1980-88 struggle with Iraq.The newer Mohajer-6 and Shahed-129 are Tehran’s weapons of selection for northern Iraq, mentioned Adam Rawnsley, who tracks Iranian drones for the Foreign Policy Research Institute.”The way Iran is using drones against Kurdish targets in Iraq is 180 degrees different than how they use drones everywhere else. It’s much more sophisticated,” he mentioned.In a uncommon interview this spring, the top of Tehran’s drone division Colonel Akbar Karimloo informed native media Iran makes use of the plane for each surveillance and assault, and to offer ahead remark for artillery and missile launchers.Earlier this month, Iran mentioned it might “take coordinated steps” with Turkey to counter Kurdish insurgent exercise alongside its borders. It didn’t particularly point out drones.Baghdad and Kurdish authorities have mentioned little on the increasing drone campaigns, and Iraqi officers have informed AFP privately they haven’t any leverage over Turkey or Iran.After a Turkish drone strike killed two prime Iraqi officers within the north in August, Baghdad expressed outrage however didn’t stress Ankara.”The general problem Iraq has is that larger powers tend to use it as a shooting gallery,” Rawnsley informed AFP.Wim Zwijnenburg, who works on disarmament for Dutch peace organisation PAX, mentioned avenues for recourse had been restricted. “A lot of these strikes are in areas which are not very populated, so there’s little information from people or journalists on the ground,” he mentioned.Indeed, neither activists nor officers may present a selected dying toll from drone strikes within the north.”That only adds to the obscurity of the drone campaigns,” Zwijnenburg informed AFP. str-mjg/kir/rbu

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